We all know the story now about the NFL players kneeling in protest while the National Anthem is played before the games. It started with then San Francisco quarterback Colin Kaepernick. He chose to use the wide exposure of the playing of the National Anthem in order to bring attention to what he believes are injustices in our Republic. He believes that black men are being unjustly targeted by the police, up to and including, being shot and killed. He also believes that our justice system, in general, is biased against blacks.
At first, Kaepernick had a handful of other players around the NFL joining him in his protest by also taking a knee during the National Anthem.
Of course, this action has caused controversy, with many taking great offense to the players kneeling and “showing disrespect” during our National Anthem. Not surprisingly, the divide is very wide by racial, as well as political, lines. A CNN poll conducted in September 2017 showed that overall, 49% said kneeling was wrong, while 43% said it was right.
Among whites, 59% say the players are doing the wrong thing while 82% of blacks say it’s the right thing to do. Almost 9 in 10 Republicans say it’s the wrong thing (87%) while just about three-quarters of Democrats say the opposite (72%). And most younger Americans call it the right thing (56% among those under age 45) while a majority of older Americans say it’s wrong (59% among those age 45 or older).CNN
Enter President Donald Trump.
A wise President and good leader would seek to unite the country. A wise President and good leader would seek to understand and acknowledge both sides of the controversy. A wise President and good leader would use this opportunity to open a dialogue and to further everyone’s understanding of the issue and begin to rationally and civilly resolve the problems.
Unfortunately, we don’t have a wise President and good leader. We have Donald “Gotta Pour Gasoline On Every Flaming Controversy” Trump. You would think that someone as brilliant as Trump, a self-proclaimed genius and master negotiator/deal-maker, would understand how to bring people together on this, or at the very least, understand that the attempt should be made.
Instead, we get this:
Yes, the President of the United States is demanding that the NFL actually fire players that refuse to stand for the National Anthem! And his supporters agree and cheer him.
What the hell country is this?
During the first month that Trump got involved in this, he tweeted about it 37 times (12% of all of his tweets)! It shows a total lack of concern about the division that it’s creating. He’s fomenting outrage and riling up his base, rather than attempting to be a voice of ration and reason. He even praises the “great anger”.
The only thing that resulted from Trump’s involvement is that many, many more players joined in the kneeling protest…essentially now protesting the President and his asinine comments. He has most definitely made the situation worse and the divisions wider.
There has been a massive shift since last fall on this question among blacks. In a poll conducted by Marist for HBO Real Sports last fall, 42% of African-Americans said players should be required to stand; now, that stands at just 13%.CNN
Ok, so let’s take a closer look at the issue and the various controversies entangled in it.
First, the protest and the reasons given for it. Kaepernick and the other kneelers believe that African Americans are being treated unjustly…that they are being systematically targeted by a biased law enforcement and justice system.
Now, set aside whether or not you believe that is true or even if the facts absolutely demonstrate that it is not. That is a debate that is beyond the scope and point of this article. The mere fact that they believe it to be true, and that 82% of African Americans agree with it, presents a huge problem. A problem that cannot be ignored, or mocked, or denigrated. It must be addressed in a rational, civil, direct, and comprehensive manner.
For example, instead of fomenting anger and division, a wise President and good leader might take this issue head on and conduct a series of prime time discussions about the issues. An in-depth discussion with a panel of people representing all sides, presided by the President to give it the bully pulpit attention, and attended by representatives from law enforcement and the justice department, and Kaepernick and other African American leaders (exclude Sharpton, Jackson, and the other race-baiting charlatans). Present facts and reason with a civil, open dialogue and cover each point of contention until it is resolved (unlike the quick hit, talking-point, “debates” on “the shows” and campaign debates).
Next, on the issue of whether it is unpatriotic/un-American to not stand for the National Anthem. This one is a bit more complicated, because, yes, standing and respecting the National Anthem and the American flag is definitely a display of patriotism. But the question becomes, is not standing always a display of un-patriotism no matter the circumstances? And, what does the National Anthem and the flag really represent?
Before going any further with this, let me pause to proclaim my love for the American flag and the National Anthem. Even after leaving military service over 26 years ago, to this day, when the National Anthem is played, I stand and immediately snap to attention, remove my hat, and place hand over heart. I feel great pride each and every time, while witnessing many around me who display lackluster respect…many of whom are the same people professing such offense to what the kneelers are now doing.
As for the flag, it flies in front of my home every day:
That said, I don’t really have a problem with people peacefully protesting what they perceive to be injustice by kneeling during the National Anthem. Frankly, I find it a somewhat respectful way to protest as compared to sitting/ignoring it, or worse yet, burning the flag or stomping on it, and the like.
But Trump and his minions have convinced his supporters that it is disrespectful to not stand and show respect for the National Anthem and flag under all circumstances. They erroneously believe that by not doing so, it is disrespecting all those who serve and have served in the military, as if that is all that the flag and anthem represent. That is a completely erroneous and simplistically ignorant view of it.
The American flag and the National Anthem represent the whole of “America”. That is, they represent the idea of America…the exceptionalism of America…the entire “American Experiment”. That encompasses everything that brought forth America, such as the founding principles it was built upon and the spirit of the people that built it. It is not simply “honoring our men and women of the military”, although that is a part of it.
Therefore, when a large percentage of our people believe that we are not living up to that idea of and exceptionalism of America, and that we are not abiding by those founding principles, then it is wholly appropriate for them to conduct a peaceful protest during an event that is entirely intended to celebrate those ideals and principles.
In fact, if I was convinced that they were correct about what they are protesting, I would be kneeling with them.
But Trump and most of his most ardent supporters have no clue about these founding principles and what makes America exceptional, so how can they understand what the National Anthem and the flag really represent?
How can they understand how to make America great again if they have no idea what made it great to begin with?
The spirit of an American is one that stands up to injustice and fights for what is right. One that does not obediently stand for a corrupt system to dictate what we do. We no longer allow for dictators or kings or anyone to rule us. The original American patriots didn’t stand and honor the British flag when they were told to, while they recognized that the British authority abused their rights and was not treating them with the same respect as demanded by all British citizens. No, the patriotic thing to do…the American thing to do…was to protest and fight on many levels and in many ways, resulting in the successful revolution and ultimate independence.
That is the uniquely patriotic, American way.
“But, Steve…you can’t compare those who fought in the Revolution to the kneelers! That’s crazy! The kneeling protesters today are wrong about what they are protesting!”
That may be, but it doesn’t matter. If they truly, sincerely believe that the injustices exist and that we are, as a nation, not living up to the ideals that are the promise of America, then they are right to protest it. Now, if there is strong evidence that they are disingenuously protesting for other nefarious reasons (ala Sharpton and Jackson), then that’s another story. However, there is no indication of that, that I am aware of.
It is then our responsibility, as a nation, to convince them otherwise in a rational, civil manner. We don’t do that by distracting from the issue by accusing them of disrespecting and protesting our men and women of the military. We don’t do that by mocking, ridiculing, and disparaging their lack of patriotism. We don’t do that by having the President of the United States call for them to be fired for lack of standing for the National Anthem. How absurd is that?
Sorry, Sen. Cruz, in your seemingly continued attempts to garner favor among Trump and his supporters, you are wrong on this one as well…
“When Beto O’Rourke says he can’t think of anything more American (than players taking a knee), well I got to tell you, I can,” Cruz said during a campaign stop in Corpus Christi, Texas, according to The Caller Times.The Hill
Actually, that was not even an accurate quote from Beto.
O’Rourke, asked at a town hall meeting if players’ protests were disrespectful, replied that they were not and that he could think of nothing “more American than to peacefully” protest for a cause one feels strongly about, The Caller Times reported.The Hill
Beto was right*.
*No, that does not mean I am a leftist who hopes that Beto wins with all of his leftist ideas. It only means that on this issue, he was more right than Cruz, as I thoroughly explained above. Cruz should know better, as he most definitely understands the founding principles and that the National Anthem and flag represent all of those.